Just like when “The Situation” is trying to bring a girl back to house and one of the other guys has to hook up with her swamp donkey friend in order to make it happen, right now Triano is taking one for the team (I kind of want to puke for using a Jersey Shore reference…so any hate mail I get on that one is fully deserved).
As the Raptors continue on with their rebuilding process, Triano is forced to deal with the young talent that he has on the roster and still try to compete each night.
And, from the start of the year, things actually looked promising.
Without Bosh to lean on, Triano was preaching hard work, rebounding and the need to push the ball up the floor. And despite the lack of a superstar, the Raptors were far exceeding the expectations set out by the bulk of the basketball world.
For a short time, it even looked like the Raptors could legitimately contend for a playoff spot. Triano was doing the impossible—utilizing the talents of a group of players that nobody was giving a chance and helping them to achieve what very few thought could be done.
Reggie Evans became a rebounding terror, and on every loose ball looked like a man possessed, averaging just over 12 rebounds per game.
Leandro Barbosa showed great range, an elite scoring touch at times, and unlike the sad sack that Turkoglu became in Toronto, Barbosa looked like he actually WANTED to be there.
Bargnani (who is still an atrocious defender) started showing flashes of brilliance on offense, and even more important to the Raptors cause, consistency!!! He looked more comfortable in the paint, and even seemed to be ready to take a little more body than his usually frail frame had been used to in the past.
Add in the acquisition of Jerryd Bayless (a guy who plays like he’s got something to prove) and Peja Stoyakovic (a once dominant player who was sure to bring leadership and a soft scoring touch), as well as the resurgence of Jose Calderon after Jack was dealt, and the Raptors were putting a team on the floor that Jay Triano was somehow motivated to do the dirty work, put the ball in the bucket, and outwork its opponents for wins.
Whatever Jay was putting in the water was helping the Raptors to overachieve in a very big way, but then fate stepped in and said “Hey Jay…nice work with the team, but I’ve got other plans”.
It started with Evans going down with a fractured foot, followed by injuries to Stojakovic, Calderon, Weems, Bargnani, Barbosa, Kleiza and Bayless. The Raptors have lost nearly 130 games to injury, compared to 199 in total last year, and so the season that once looked like a Cinderella-story in the making soon became a wicked horror story that was painful to watch.
Right now, the Raptors can’t compete against most of the NBA. They’re decimated by injuries, and even when they do seem to keep a game within reach, they don’t have the depth to claw out a win (like they’re last second 100-98 collapse against Memphis on January 24).
And while for most coaches, being part of a team that is as terrible as the Raptors are would mean a pink slip could be coming any day, for Jay Triano, it just means that he has time to evaluate his talent, try new things and hone his craft, because no other coach on the planet could help this team do any better.
Even if the Raptors decide they want to get rid of Triano, they’ll never find a high-caliber or up-and-coming coach willing to take the kind of losses that Jay is absorbing right now.
Unlike last year, when the Raptors were trying to keep Bosh and plow their way into the playoffs, this year, nobody expects anything from the Raptors, and so all the pressure is off Jay Triano.
As this young Raptors squad matures and bigger talents sign with the club, Triano will need to show that he has the ability to motivate his players and push them to over achieve, just like he did at the beginning of the year. But if he can’t do this, then Jay may have to say goodbye to the NBA for good.
Because nobody is going to give him another chance like he’s had in Toronto.